Punta Cana

The Dominican Republic has steadily grown its share of the Caribbean tourism market for the last couple of decades. And Punta Cana, on the eastern shore, is one of the most popular resort towns on the island, featuring smooth, white sand beaches lined with hotels nestled among palm trees. Although rum-soaked, all-night parties are just a cab ride away, the two Paradisus Resorts provide relaxation at a different speed—both are relatively low-key, all-inclusive, family-friendly havens that cater to mature couples and families with children who are more interested in sun-drenched days than nightlife.

Paradisus Resorts in Punta Cana include the individual resorts of Palma Real and Punta Cana. Palma Real is located on Bávaro Beach on the eastern shore of the island and Punta Cana is nearby. Both resorts have their own Reserve (a “sanctuary within a resort”), which is the best bet for those who want bigger, more luxurious suites, especially families with children. All packages at the resorts are all-inclusive, which means your wallet can stay in the room’s safe.

It’s not surprising that aquatic relaxation is in full force in Punta Cana. With the ocean only a few steps away from several pools, a large main pool open to all resort guests and other private pools reserved for those with certain upgrades (Royal Service or Family Concierge), water is ubiquitous here.

Couples should opt for the adults-only Royal Service upgrade while families with children would do well with the Family Concierge option. Bonuses are similar: Private check-in lobby, reserved bali beds around the private pool and beach, a personal butler to take care of your every whim, special turndown services in which the butler draws a bubble bath in your room’s huge Jacuzzi while you’re at dinner (Royal Service) or a special milk and cookies turndown service for the kids (Family Concierge).

The Reserve (one at Palma Real and one at Punta Cana) is essentially a resort within a resort. Best for families with kids, each reserve sports its own selection of restaurants, exclusive pools and beaches, and a special Kids Zone—a tucked away area of colorful fun including a climbing wall, mini-water park with slides, trampolines and more. The kids will love it and couples without children won’t even know it’s there.

A typical day at Palma Real starts with a romantic in-room breakfast for two. Then off to yoga or Pilates. Guys, don’t be afraid to send the lady to yoga while you play 18 at one of several area golf courses. Clubs can be rented if you prefer not to travel with yours. Lounge an hour or two by the pool or beach and start thinking about lunch. Plenty of options there, but best bet is the buffet at Naos—everything you’ll need is right in front of you. The rib-style pork chop was a standout as were all of the pasta choices. After lunch, decisions are tough.

imageSnorkeling, windsurfing, parasailing or horseback riding on the beach? Or if you’re certified, a scuba diving excursion to the reef may be just what you need. If you like to fly, but parasailing is too boring for you, there’s a flying inflatable Achilles dinghy. Yes, they’ve taken a blue inflatable rubber boat, like the ones we used to zip around the Great South Bay with, and gave it wings. The sight of a flying boat above the beach had more heads turned upwards than a group of tourists in Manhattan. Finish the afternoon off with a 50- or 80-minute massage or one of several other treatment options at the Yhi spa. Remember that water theme? The water rituals are the ultimate before and/or after to your massage treatment. Tip: Any resort guest can partake in the spa’s water ritual pools, you don’t have to get a special treatment or massage, just walk right in and take a dip.

Dining options are plentiful. 12 restaurants at Punta Cana and 11 at Palma Real, so there’s something for everyone—Mediterranean, French, Asian, etc. Tip for steak lovers: You’re not in Texas, or even Chicago or New York so the preciseness of how you may like it cooked is slightly different. Your best bet is to round up—if you like medium-rare, ask for medium; if you like medium-well, ask for well done. The in-betweens can get lost in translation. The gastro-highlight at Palma Real is Bana, an Asian fusion spot serving Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Thai food. For groups over six people, they present a food festival—family-style courses of their most popular sushi items followed by the Chinese, Indian and Thai menu options. The sushi was fresh and tasty, but the real treats were the Chinese dishes. The absolute best bite of food I ate my entire stay was what they call a Sweet and Sour Mahi Mahi. It looked and tasted just like a General Tso’s chicken dish we’d find in any Chinese restaurant in New York, except with fish on the inside instead of chicken. A scrumptious delight I wish our local Chinese restaurants would mimic.

After dinner, enjoy a stroll on the beach or a show in the plaza where a band plays to the crowd most nights of the week. There is also a small casino to get your blackjack, roulette or slots fix. They do offer a poker tournament once a week (usually Friday), but for a regular everyday poker game, a short cab ride to one of several of the area’s larger casinos is your best bet.

The dog days of summer can get ultra hot on the beaches of Long Island and therefore most people avoid the Caribbean during the summer in favor of making it their winter destination. But summer in the Caribbean is not as hot as one might imagine, because the weather is more consistent throughout the year, with average summertime highs in the upper-80s. Plus, the resorts have plenty of bamboo-thatched-covered bali beds and chaise lounges, both around the pools and on the beach, so finding a spot in the shade is effortless. And of course there’s water in every direction to cool off. The tropical garden at Palma Real offers several tucked away shaded bali beds for complete privacy to veg out among the foliage and trickling streams. Considering the short and frequent flights to and from New York, you have no reason not to book, especially now when fares are in your favor.

Paradisus Resorts in Punta Cana include both the Palma Real Resort and Punta Cana Resort, both with their own Reserve. For more information, visit http://www.paradisus.com.

Basic Package
Deluxe Garden View Suite. Over 500 square feet living area with two Queen beds or one King, a sofa, private terrace or balcony, minibar, cable TV and Jacuzzi. Starting at $404 per person. Until August 31.

Family Concierge Upgrade
Families with children can opt for the Family Concierge upgrade, it’s well worth it. From the moment you arrive in the private check-in lobby, a personal butler (concierge) will distract the kids with games, snacks and a welcome gift bag that includes a hat, t-shirt and sunscreen while the parents check in. If the kids can’t make it a day without their Playstation, Wii or Xbox, a call to your butler on the walkie-talkie is all you need to find one. The Reserve Family Concierge One Bedroom Suite: starting at $479 per adult, $240 per child (5-12).

Royal Service Upgrade
Best upgrade for couples. Extravagant adults-only accommodations, private pool and beach area (also sans children), butler service, pillow menu, VIP lounge with private check in/out, internet service, breakfast and lunch, and more. Starting at $489 per person. Until August 31.

Rates listed are from now until August 31. Rates dip after August 31 for those planning their fall getaways now.